The former Pope, Benedict XVI has hinted that he is nearing the end of his life and is ready for what he described as his final "pilgrimage". 

Joseph Ratzinger made the comments in a letter written for the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera. 

The Pope emeritus said: "In the slow decline of my physical strength, internally, I am on a pilgrimage to the House of the Lord." 

The former pope, who will turn 91 in April, said he was moved that so many of the paper’s readers wanted to know how this last period of his life was going. 

"It is a great grace for me to be surrounded, in this last point of a sometimes tiring path, with affection and kindness that I would not have imagined," Benedict added. 

Since his resignation five years ago, the German-born pope has been living in a small monastery in the Vatican, along with four nuns and his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein. 

Two years ago, Fr Gaenswein reported that Benedict was "going out like a candle, slowly and serenely".

A senior member of the Vatican clergy said last year that the pope emeritus no longer had the control of his hands, he could no longer play the piano, but he had perfect lucidity, and he remembered everything. 

In 2013, Benedict became the first head of the church to resign in seven centuries.